The year of 2017 has been momentous for me to say the least with the birth of my son in March. After spending nine months pregnant with him I was more than eager to get back to one of my true passions: running. However, saying that starting to run again was like an uphill battle might be a bit of an understatement. I had no idea how difficult it was going to be starting to run again after not running for nine months.
It's hard to describe how running felt again after having my son, but 'shocking' might be the only word I can find to describe it. The one thing I love about running is that it will never lie to you. It will tell you who you really are and, well, sometimes the truth isn't pretty. Running will tell you if you are overweight or out of shape, or hurting, or tired. It shows no mercy.
When I started running again, I felt all these things. I felt overweight. I felt out of shape. I felt the burning in my lungs. My calves hurt like crazy. My mind was willing, but my body was not able. I would call it starting over again, except I've never been this heavy in my life before so it's more like a starting line that I've never known.
In May I nervously signed up for the Pittsburgh 5k that ran the Saturday before the marathon. I hit my goal and I was feeling great about myself! But at the end of May, my maternity leave was over and I returned to work full time. It was becoming difficult to find time for myself so running and working out went by the wayside. So I did what I usually do, when I want to force myself to run; I signed up for a race. I ran the Brentwood 4th of July 5k, which also happened to be the last race I ran in 2016 while I was pregnant with my son (but didn't know it yet!)
I had high hopes for this race. My husband and son even came, yet it went terribly for me. It was the warmest 4th of July race in years and I had a complete meltdown in the heat. I usually don't do well in the heat, but the heat along with being 4 months removed from having my son forced me into walking most of the last mile and a half. I felt really defeated during this race.
After the 4th of July 5k I didn't sign up for anymore races. I was shocked, really in a way, at how poorly I felt and how poorly I did. It was a very humbling experience to do the slowest 5k I've ever done in my life.
I started to realize I needed to adjust my outlook. For a while, I thought that because I had continued to workout during my pregnancy that I would 'bounce back'. But that's not what happened and I had to accept that it was okay. Otherwise I would just end up becoming more and more frustrated with myself.
With this new attitude I decided to sign up for a 4 mile race in October. Could I run 4 miles? I wasn't really sure. Then in late September we took our long awaited family of three vacation to Ocean City, Maryland. During my three years living on the Eastern Shore I loved running on the boardwalk, so I took my running shoes with me.
The second day of vacation I decided to do my run. We were experiencing the long distance effects of a hurricane so I knew that the weather might be challenging. As I set out on my run, the sky was overcast but the rain was just a drizzle. I was feeling pretty good as I ran along the ocean. But then a mile into my run the rain starting pouring on me.
I watched as walkers on the boardwalk ducked into covered spaces and stores; but I kept going, kicking up water, as my feet hit the boardwalk. I was getting absolutely pelted with raindrops but it felt exhilarating and in that moment I felt happy to be running.
When I turned around to head back to our hotel, I was running into a strong wind. The wind pelted me with salt water and fogged up my contacts. I couldn't see at all. I realized running a mile back on the boardwalk wasn't going to happen so I ran off the boardwalk to the street level and wiped the saltwater from me eyes. I ran back on the sidewalk which had much better running conditions than the boardwalk. When I reached my destination I took this selfie on the boardwalk, commemorating this run.
It wasn't a race, or a personal best, but it was a day where I had found my joy in running again. After that run, I felt my attitude really shift from being terribly frustrated to just enjoying my ability to run.
In October I did the Mario Lemieux 6.6k. I had done this race about three years ago and remembered enjoying the course. Race day turned out to be a really warm day for October so I ended up wearing shorts and a t shirt on race day. At mile marker 1 of the race the Stanley Cup was on display! It was pretty cool to see such a recognizable sports trophy on display during a race. I did run a decent portion of the first part of the race and then the second half of the race I walked pretty often. 4 miles was the longest I had run in a long time and the it was much hotter than expected so I didn't want to overdo it. At the finish line, I got a high five from Mario so that was a great way to end the race!
My final race of the year was the Pittsburgh Turkey Trot. This was actually my first time doing a Turkey Trot race as I am usually traveling or hosting on Thanksgiving Day. It was a pretty cool experience to wake up on Thanksgiving Day and go for a run. I would definitely do it again. (Plus you feel a lot less guilty when eating dinner later in the day.)
Fortunately several of my buddies from T2 CrossFit were also running the race, so we met up for a picture before the race. It was absolutely freezing! I think the temperature at the start of the race was around 26 degrees, which would make it the coldest race I've ever done. While I have definitively trained in colder weather, I had never ran a race this cold before!
I didn't wear my watch for this race because it's been frustrating to see my pace times, so I just went with how I felt. I still had to walk some, but this ended up being my best 5k time of the year at 39:35. I was really surprised at how much better I did when I didn't know how fast I was running and just went with how I felt.
I'm still running (mostly on my treadmill) but won't race again until next year. Overall I'm very happy that I was able to participate in four races this year. I'm also happy to end the year on a high note after being really frustrated with my performance during the summer. I'm so glad to have found my passion for running again.
Author: Sarah Warman
I like to run, take pictures and write. I've combined all three in this blog.